A recognized problem in our community are the many vacant historic buildings lining Capitol Avenue which have fallen into disrepair after years of neglect. These once magnificent homes were symbols of prosperity for both the people that lived in them as well as for our thriving Capitol City. Several of the homes were built by self-made men who immigrated to the area in search of a new beginning and a better life for their families. They found that in Jefferson City and built these large homes as a monument to their success.

There have been large strides made by the City of Jefferson over the past three years to finally take control of these historic buildings so they can be redeveloped before demolition becomes the only answer.

The Standish House at 103 Jackson Street is one such property. It was one of three properties originally listed in a civil lawsuit filed by the Housing Authority in 2017. The previous owners of the house voluntarily gave the property to the Housing Authority in early 2018. Just over a year later the home found new owners who are in the process of restoring the building and making it a home once again.

The building is a Queen Anne style brick-and-frame house which was built in the late 1800s. The second story is covered by wooden shingles in various patterns while the walls flare out at the base. The first floor is comprised of brick which wraps around the house.

The most interesting exterior feature of the building is the keyhole arch in front of the door. Inside, the home has 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms with formal living and dining rooms. The interior is most notable for its beautiful wood U-shaped staircase and large pocket doors.

The first owner of the home was Mildred Standish. Her parents, Gustavus and Patience Parsons, lived next door at 105 Jackson and her brother Confederate Major General Mosby Parsons lived just down Jackson Street where the Dulle Trimble Towers now stand.

Years before 103 Jackson was built, the Civil War raged throughout the country. Towards the end of the war, Mildred traveled from Jefferson City with her two young sons through enemy lines to Arkansas to advise her husband, Confederate Lieutenant Colonel Austin Standish, to leave the Confederacy or at the very least, seek a safer assignment. She then traveled with her husband and children, as well as her brother Mosby, to their Louisiana camp where they spent the last days of the Confederacy together. It was here they all learned of President Lincoln’s assassination. This would be the last time her family would be together.

Immediately following the end of the war, Mildred and her children returned home to Jefferson City while her brother led a group of comrades, including her husband, on a doomed trip to Mexico in hopes of finding a land where they could “live free”, according to a letter Mosby sent. The entire group was killed by soldiers of the Republic of Mexico shortly into their escapade.

According to an article in the 1878 Shelbina Democrat, Mrs. Standish sued the Mexican government and was awarded $42,486 for the robbery and murder of her husband. Local historians believe she used this money to build the Standish home. Stories from people who knew Mrs. Standish state she always wore black as a sign of her mourning. They say despite proof to the contrary, she refused to believe the reports of her husband’s death and would leave a candle burning in the front window for him every evening.

Over the years, the building has been home to several families and most recently, served as a law office. Levi and Amanda Burke Williams saw the potential in the abandoned building and knew they could make it a home for the growing family. Since purchasing the property, they have spent weekends and evenings with family and friends at the house in an effort to prepare it for themselves and their daughter, Vivian Rose, to eventually live in.

One of the more interesting projects has been taking paint samples from various locations on the house to try to determine the original colors that were used. While their tests proved inconclusive, they eventually decided to go with varying shades of blue with highlights of red and cream.

When possible, they’ve utilized historic salvage items found at both Habitat for Humanity and the HCJ Architectural Salvage Shoppe. In addition, the house retained most of its original hardware. After hours of cleaning, they now have beautiful, original hardware for their doorknobs and door hinges that further makes the house unique and helps retain its history. You can follow Levi and Amanda’s restoration of the Standish House on their blog at https://outstandishpreservation.weebly.com/.

It’s this mix of retaining key pieces of history while making these historic buildings usable that is critical for us to remember as Jefferson City moves forward. Historic preservation in our community does not mean things must stay the same. HCJ has long advocated for the preservation of our city’s historic buildings with the understanding that modifications must, at times, be made to make them usable for today’s lifestyles.

This blending of the old and new is what makes historic buildings in our community so full of potential. Soon, we will celebrate the bi-centennial of our city’s founding. We can move our city forward into the future by ensuring we utilize and retain what remains of our past. 

If you are interested in developing a historic building, the Jefferson City Housing Authority has several vacant historic buildings still available for bid. You can learn more about which ones are available by visiting  http://www.jchamo.org/.